Feature: From Military to Motherhood
What is it like being a new mom? I feel like no one will have the same feelings about what they experience. Considering what age you became a mom, where you were, who your partner is, and several other things; this could be interpreted thousands of different ways.
Prior to being a mom I was serving active duty in the United States Navy. I met my husband during the beginning of our four year obligation.
I didn’t plan on finding my soulmate in the military; in fact, I joined the military to escape from that. From everything that was comfortable to me so that I could focus on myself. I wanted to find adventure, to challenge myself, and to see the world. Little did I know that journey was about to become everything opposite that, in the best way possible.
I never deployed. I was stationed shore duty in San Diego. There wasn’t much adventure or seeing the world in that. As far as challenging myself, it was only by a little.
I feel like people that aren’t in the military see it completely differently. For us that were in, it’s just a regular job. This obviously depends on your branch of service, where you were stationed and several other variables. But for a lot of active duty people, the military has nothing to do with who you are. It never defined me.
I never felt like I served a specific purpose. You’re clearly “just a number”. After you serve your time, there are hundreds upcoming to fill in your boots. My purpose wasn’t made clear until I became a mother.
It was the end of our four years that my husband and I decided to start a family. We didn’t want to serve in the military with children because deployment is inevitable. My husband deployed several times, once for ten months straight. The thought of missing your child’s birth or leaving a newborn for a long deployment didn’t fit into our idea of an ideal living situation. Several people that serve have kids but it wasn’t what we wanted for our children.
I became pregnant during my last few months in the military. It was during Christmas. Military personnel in the Navy have what they call “holiday stand down.” Things in the command slow down and several people fly home to be with family. Following the holidays I was in the process of transitioning out. The military provides you with classes to prepare you for civilian life, you’re medically screened, etc. Several people ask me what it was like to serve while pregnant but I was already three quarters out the door.
Transitioning from the military to motherhood wasn’t exactly that direct. You are pregnant for several months, after all. My husband moved to WA state, where I’m from, and it is here we planted our feet.
For the majority of my pregnancy I spent reading and researching. I wanted to be as prepared as possible.
As much as you plan and prepare, the feeling you have when your child is laid across your chest is something you’ll never understand until it happens. Even as it was happening I felt like I was in a dream. As he lies here beneath my chin I still haven’t fully processed what it’s like to be someone’s mother. I think understanding the scope of that will take a lifetime.
For me, things haven’t just clicked. Things don’t just fall into place. You sort of figure things out as you go. It takes time to learn just who it is you brought into this world.
The feeling of being a mom changes every week. Almost hourly!
The first month with your baby is completely selfless. I understand we don’t have children for our own selfish entertainment. Most of us will love our baby no matter if it’s reciprocated. I never expect anything in return. That first month is a true testament to that notion.
Here you have a being that relies on you for food, warmth, comfort, and sleep. You can pass the baby around and he won’t care too much who is holding him, so long as he is warm, fed and cozy.
You’re sort of being taken for granted. Sleepless nights, hourly wakings, missed meals, the struggle of breastfeeding. A mother goes through so much without a single thank you from whom she’s sacrificing all of her time for. Sacrificing not only your time, but your body.
You become a machine. A host to provide life for your child. Not only are you healing from the traumatic state your body is often left in after birth, you are left to focus on providing for someone else, allowing your needs and your healing process to drift into the rear view. You ignore the pain from your uterus contracting back down to size. You help the baby latch onto you to nurse, raw and sometimes blistered. All of your pain means nothing, in the most beautiful way, because you instinctually focus on providing sustenance for that tiny life in your hands.
The first month is hard. The first month is selfless. The first month is an absolute blur.
Weeks go by of caring for your baby, its eyes moving around the room, often glazing right over your face. You’ve gotten up countless times to care for him, to peek and make sure he’s breathing, to change him and feed him. You’ve gotten nothing from him to make you feel appreciated. Not until that first, incredible, tear-jerking smile.
He smiled at me. There it is. He knows me. Everything I’ve given the last several weeks of my life has all been justified. It has all been worth seeing that very first smile. I’d do that first month for all my life to get that smile.
You don’t mind losing yourself a little. It’s all so small when you look at the big picture. Look at what you’re doing. What a glorious purpose.
As months march forward you’re rewarded with more smiles, then a laugh. You watch your baby reach these milestones and you’ve never been so proud of anyone or anything in your entire life. You are so consumed by this one person. Your world is suddenly placed in perspective. You’ve never felt so big and so small at the same time.
You don’t mind that he will never understand what you went through those first few weeks. You probably have forgotten some details yourself. There you were in the trenches. Crying randomly from the regulating of your hormones. Crying because nursing has you in so much pain. Crying because you feel like you’re not doing anything right, because you are afraid to bathe that tiny human, because you don’t want to ever cause him harm.
Crying now because he reached out to you with both of his arms for the first time. Crying because he finally took his first crawl forward. Crying just because you never knew being a mom felt like this.
As baby is asleep in my arms right now, I lean forward and press my face against the back of his head. I breathe in his scent and feel his warmth against my lips. I’ve never needed to protect anyone so much in my life.
In the beginning of this post I opened with motherhood feeling differently for everyone, depending on the state you were in which you became a mother. Each scenario, however, has something in common.
There is an unspoken connection between a mother and her child. Upon birth, this baby isn’t a stranger. He’s been with you, forming a bond over several months.
It’s instinctual, your need to protect and to provide.
No matter the state you are in when you become a mother, in those first moments of his life, you will instantly feel absolute and unconditional love.